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Small form-factor, Relocatable, Unattended Ground Sensor

Description:

TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Info Systems 

OBJECTIVE: Develop extremely efficient, capable small form-factor autonomous, UAS lift and maneuver technologies in support of relocatable unattended ground sensors. 

DESCRIPTION: The mobility of imaging ground sensors on the battlefield is a major challenge for the next generation of Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) sensors. Ground sensors restricted to operation from a fixed position do not support the mobile, expeditionary nature of Army combat operations. In addition, relocatable sensors need to be packaged into remote delivery systems that transport the sensor to staging positions tens of kilometers (km) forward of controlled spaces [1]. Key functional characteristics, of the relocatable sensor include autonomous launch and landing in denied spaces, autonomous recharging, navigation, obstacle avoidance, small size, and attitude control for ISR operations. To realize future Army capabilities, suggested mission parameters for such a platform includes 1) flight hovering durations of at least 20 minutes; 2) flight distances up to 8 km between charging; 3) an autonomy capable of launch and landing in denied spaces, navigation, obstacle avoidance, small size, and attitude control to support imaging operations without human intervention; 4) an ISR sensor payload consisting of a stabilized, multi-axis gimbal with multi-spectral imaging (e.g., visible 1080p and IR) and processing capable of onboard, real-time processing of the imagery; and, 5) multiband communications capable of supporting HD video. The autonomy, sensing and communications payloads should not exceed 500 grams. When packaged in a delivery system, the body of the proposed solution should be capable of fitting within a 100mm x 100mm cylindrical container with a total wingspan, when unpackaged, of 200mm or less so that it may be integrated with a future Army air delivery-transport system. The system must be able to operate without human intervention for more than 10 flight-return-recharge cycles. State-of-the-art commercial and experimental micro UAS platforms are not able to meet our objective requirements [2, 4, 5]. While many of these component technologies have been commercially developed or demonstrated in research endeavors, developing a fully integrated, autonomous system capable of all of the behaviors indicted while maintaining sufficient engine power for lift and overcoming ground effects with a 500 gram payload; integrated battery and aerodynamic design capable of flying 8 km, hovering for 20 minutes without recharging while performing obstacle avoidance while performing visual scene processing. Major research challenges in this topic are not the component technologies (lift and flight, flight control and navigation, imagers, computer vision algorithms etc.) but rather 1) the integration of the behaviors, components and systems and implementation of those technologies into the prepackaged/collapsible, small form-factor identified above, and 2) the ability of the system to work autonomously without human intervention. The research conducted in this SBIR should enable a UAS with a 500 gram, 50 cubic centimeter payload which can be packaged in a 100 x 100 mm cylindrical container to fly at least 8 kilometers at an altitude greater than 300 meters, hover for 20 minutes at 150 meters while using no more than 80% of its power source (the balance is assumed to the payload). 

PHASE I: The research effort shall explore autonomous unmanned platform technologies for mobility of micro UAS for sensor relocation. Investigate and determine the design characteristics of the solution that meets the requirements. Research for this phase will focus on developing an integrated system design including engineering designs necessary to meet the system requirements including lift systems, materials, power sources, and packaging strategies; the research will develop integrated flight control and navigation hardware, software and algorithms capable of meeting the system requirements; and, specifying an onboard intelligence package to include sensor systems and algorithms to meet the system requirements. Using modeling and simulation software, demonstrate a solution that meets the performance requirements: With a 500 gram, 50 cubic centimeter payload, 1) lift off the ground on its own power; 2) hover for at least 20 minutes, fly at least 8 kilometers, and land in a position/orientation suitable for another launch without human intervention. In addition, the research must substantiate through detailed aerodynamic, materials, power, and environmental analysis, a design capable of meeting the objective performance and form-factor requirements. Develop documentation for a proposal for the solution for phase 2 consideration. Additionally, research should identify lightweight materials, miniaturization and dual use of critical component technologies, high-energy power sources, multifunctional hardware, and high efficiency aerodynamics that are critical enabling technology. The research to adapt these critical enabling technologies can be the focus off the Phase I option period. 

PHASE II: Based on the simulation results from Phase I, perform the research to design, develop, and integrate a hardware platform with performance capable of meeting the required capabilities within a 125x 125 mm cylindrical container with a 250 mm maximum wingspan form-factor. Deliver 1 system to ARL for testing to validate that the system is capable of meeting the specified performance. The system must be able to meet all system performance specifications, except those specified in Phase III deliverables. Additionally, Phase II research should identify lightweight materials, miniaturization and dual use of critical component technologies, high-energy power sources, multifunctional hardware, and high efficiency aerodynamics that are critical enabling technology to achieve the 100mm by 100mm form factor. The research to adapt these critical enabling technologies can be the focus off the Phase II option period. 

PHASE III: Vision: The final product should be able to rapidly deploy itself and then autonomously identify and move to an optimum location, where it performs ISR tasks, and then redeploys and recharges. The End State of the program, building on the results from Phase II, and the simulation and modeling from Phase I, will meet or exceed the required capabilities within a 100 x 100 mm cylindrical container with a 200 mm maximum wingspan form-factor. Deliver 2 systems to ARL for testing to validate that the system is capable of meeting the specified performance. Potential Transition and Military Transition Path and Application: Eventual military applications could include Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) for a maneuver group or fixed location with a dynamic surrounding landscape. Expeditionary forces responding to a humanitarian disaster would use these rapidly deployable, mobile agents to establish a perimeter and provide ISR for locating people, infrastructure and safety concerns. The CLARK Kit as well as PM Soldier's Soldier Borne Sensor, PM Ammo and PM UAS would have a need for this class of technology. Potential Commercial Applications: A number of commercial companies (e.g., Amazon and Chipotle) have expressed a need for mobile agents for delivery of small packages. Additionally, these systems could be used to establish mobile networking infrastructure, which is a active research area for many companies (i.e., Google and Comcast). 

REFERENCES: 

1: Position Paper: Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap FY2013-2038, Approved by Admiral James A. Winnefld, Jr., Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Frank Kendall, Under Secretary of Defense (AT&L) (2013).

2:  R. Hansman, "Design and Development of a High-Altitude In-Flight-Deployable Micro-UAV", MIT International Center for Air Transportation (ICAT), ICAT-2012-05, June 2012.

3:  V.V. Vantsevich, M.CV. Blundell, "Advanced Autonomous Vehicle Design for Severe Environments", published by IOS Press, Oct 20, 2015.

4:  http://www.dji.com/mavic

5:  accessed 06/01/2017

6:  http://www.dji.com/spark

7:  accessed 06/01/2017

KEYWORDS: Autonomous Unmanned Sensor Platform, Mobile Sensor, Relocatable Sensors, Remotely Delivered Sensors, Unattended Ground Sensor (UGS), Sensor Deployment And Relocation, Imaging Sensor 

CONTACT(S): 

Kelly Bennett 

(301) 394-2449 

kelly.w.bennett.civ@mail.mil 

Jacob Tyo 

(301) 394-1266 

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